Could Hillary Clinton Keep Daylight Savings Time Permanent?

It’s that time of year again: the time to–for some reason–switch our clocks ahead an hour, gaining an hour of sleep but losing an hour of daylight. Daylight Savings Time is a long-obsolete wartime observance designed to save energy spent on artificial light. While there might have been some merit to the idea in the past, in today’s world it doesn’t appear that DST saves any energy at all, as increased heating usage offsets decreased lighting usage.

We do know, on the other hand, that switching between time cycles is not only a twice-a-year annoyance but also brings an array of negative health and welfare effects, including increased rates of heart attacks, work injuries and traffic accidents when clocks move forward, and possibly increased rates of depression when the long months of darkness set in.

Like so many silly cultural and legal practices, DST clock switching should have been ended long ago–but there simply doesn’t appear to be a constituency motivated enough and large enough to get it done. Many states have been trying to get rid of it (and Arizona doesn’t observe it at all), but most bills fizzle out before they can reach a governor’s desk.

One of the main arguments for keeping Daylight Savings Time is that people like to have the extra hour of sunlight. And who can blame them? It’s depressing to leave work after 5pm with the day already vanished into darkness. But then, why not just keep the extended hours all year round?

That, in fact, is what many are arguing. There don’t appear to be any negative consequences for keep DST hours all year round, while the extra sunlight during the winter months would make most people happier.

Oddly enough, though, most politicians are largely unaware of efforts to do something about this. Hillary Clinton herself was recently asked about it, and said that she had never confronted the issue before in the last two decades. Gratefully, though, she said she would be willing to look into it:

“I will certainly consider that,” she told him. “I honestly think you may be the first person to do this in my 20 years of work who’s ever asked me that. I will take a look. I mean, people have talked about it with regard to energy savings and things like that — but getting teenagers up in the morning is hard under any kind of clock. And so let me take that back and think about it.”

Whatever her faults, one of Clinton’s biggest strengths is her wonkish obsession over policy details. Keeping DST year-round is one of those issues that she will hopefully take a long, hard look at. It may be difficult for her to get much done with a Republican Congress, but this is one non-partisan area where there might be some hope for a reasonable compromise that improves everyone’s lives.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.